Cat-owner pair in Ohio share disability journey while helping others through veterinary therapy


TROY, Ohio (AP) — Every morning when she wakes up, Juanita Mengel removes the silicone liner of her prosthetic leg from under a warm blanket so that the metal parts of the prosthesis don't feel as cold on her skin. Binds the pieces together.

Amanda, 67, ohioThe resident then does the same for her 5-year-old skinny tortoiseshell cat, Lola-Pearl, who is missing her left back leg.

The pair is one of an estimated 200 therapy cat teams registered in the US through Pet Partners. The non-profit organization sets up owners and their pets as volunteer teams providing animal-assisted interventions, where they visit hospitals, nursing homes or schools to assist with therapy and other activities to improve well-being in communities. can visit.

Taylor Chastain Griffin, national director of animal-assisted intervention advancement at the organization, said, "A therapy animal is an animal that is evaluated based on their ability to meet new people and not just tolerate interaction, but actively enjoy it." But, it is done."

Pet Partners registers nine different species as therapy animals: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, birds, mini pigs, and llamas and alpacas.

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As part of her research, Chastain Griffin studies the effects of therapy cats and argues that more research needs to be done. There is abundant research on other therapy animals, such as dogs, she said, but with therapy cats there is often a "surprise factor" involved because many people don't know they exist.

“They go into a setting and people say, 'Wow, there's a cat on a leash. What's going on?'" Chastain Griffin said. "It inspires people to connect in a way that's about We haven't traditionally heard the point in other therapy animal interventions."

Mengel said she knew Lola-Pearl would be a good therapy cat when she brought her to a Disabilities Coalition conference about a month after adopting the domestic shorthair.

"She was so good with people that I knew she would be a good therapy cat," Mengel said. “People were really attracted to him, too.”

During a recent trip to a limb loss support group meeting, Mengele pushed Lola-Pearl around in a stroller — nicknamed "Therapy Cat" — so attendees could pet the kitty when she woke up from a nap.

Whether she was sitting in a stroller, walking between the participants' legs or cuddling on their laps, Lola-Pearl brought a smile to the faces of whoever in that moment decided she was worthy of her attention.

"He's very intuitive about understanding people," Mengel said.

Lola-Pearl is not the only cat in Mengel's life; The former travel nurse, who lost her left leg after years of surgeries following a fatal car accident in 2006, is the mother of seven cats, most of whom are disabled.

"They find you, you don't find them," she said.

Lola-Pearl was found at just a few weeks old, with her hind legs completely folded together. She was unable to walk and was brought to an animal shelter by a friend of Mengel's. missouri, where veterinarians could not help him. The shelter found experts in Iowa who were able to amputate Lola-Pearl's legs in an effort to save her, but they decided that her left back leg needed to be amputated.

Meanwhile, Mengel was talking with her friend in Missouri about adopting the cat, and after Lola-Pearl recovered from surgery, Mengel officially adopted her.

Despite the obstacles Mengel has faced, she has a strong sense of gratitude for Lola-Pearl and the work they have done together.

“It's a really rewarding experience,” she said, “I get as much out of it as I do from the people I meet.”

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